Ruck and Maul: France lacking feminine charm as Canal makes eye contact

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The Independent Online

The women's World Cup will be staged this summer in England – Guildford to be precise – and it seems all aspects of the men's game are being embraced. France's Claire Canal has been suspended for 13 weeks, including two weeks in July during the World Cup warm-up games, for "making contact with the eyes or eye area" of England's Jo McGilchrist in a recent Six Nations match. A disciplinary committee of two men and a woman considered Canal to have been reckless in that she had "placed her hand in the eye area of her opponent when clearing at a maul". Plus ça change...

ERC's four-day weekend

What's the definition of a weekend? Ruck and Maul's Chambers dictionary gives it as "the non-working period from Friday evening to Sunday evening" (cue wistful raising of eyebrows by anyone involved with professional sport). But European Rugby Cup Ltd reckon that's not nearly long enough. In revealing that next season's pool stages of the two European club competitions will be played in "three blocks of back-to-back weekends in October, December and January", ERC said each "weekend" would consist of four days, Thursday to Sunday. This allows Sky to continue broadcasting a European game on a Thursday.

Sarries search for home

When not arguing with Northampton over the signing of Soane Tonga'uiha, Saracens continue to fret over where to play their home games. Their relocation for four matches to Wembley this season has drawn big crowds but the stadium's authorities are getting twitchy over the wear and tear to the pitch. Chairman Nigel Wray told the 'Evening Standard' that Sarries can only stomach one more season at dilapidated Watford; they insist the 2012 Olympic Stadium is not the answer, and not even moneybags South African owners can easily swing a suitable brownfield site anywhere near London. The club have canvassed supporters in south-west London in the past, with a view to sharing with Fulham FC, but that is on Harlequins' doorstep, with ambitious London Welsh and London Scottish nearby. How much professional rugby could a few square miles take?

Johnno is nobody's Fool

Well done to the Lutterworth Mail in Leicestershire on their exclusive report that a 13ft Martin Johnson statue would be erected on a roof in the England manager's home town of Market Harborough. Well, why not, if the London Olympics can go for a glorified piece of scrap metal to celebrate 2012. The monument to Johnno was, of course, an April fool (hence the "funding" from "Spanish-London investment bank FopoRiall"). Ruck and Maul suspected another leg-pulling ruse at large in Northampton when, with an Arctic wind blowing through Franklin's Gardens in midweek, the billboard outside the ground was advertising a forthcoming fixture with Siberia. But truth can be stranger than fiction, as the Saints' Second XV, the Wanderers, are indeed hosting a team of Russians on Monday 12 April. The connection was made by Steve Diamond, who doubles (his roubles?) as coach to the Russia national side and a scout for Northampton.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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